Only a few days after the 8.8 Chile earthquake, Sergio came into our room looking like a ghost after watching one of Peru's evening news channels.
North American geologists predicted, the broadcast said, that biggest earthquake in history--9.9 magnitude--will hit southern Peru this September. The segment quoted as its source an article from El Pais, Spain's elite newspaper.
We couldn't find any such news, so we, well, googled it.
It took about three minutes to figure out that this panic-generating rumor could be chalked up to poor newsroom research.
You see, when you search "Peru earthquake prediction," this 1981 El Pais article pops up. That's right--January 28, 1981. And for your information, there was no 9.9 earthquake in Peru in 1981, so we can now confirm that the prediction was incorrect.
The rumor has had its run on Internet forums as well. The title of the article gets 3,400 hits on Google, many posted within the past few weeks. For example, this reposting of the El Pais article--unfortunately lacking the original date-- appeared on one of Univision's forums.
I don't know which came first--the bad TV coverage or the Internet rumor. But it's got some Peruvians preparing for Armageddon in September 2011. Their reaction is understandable, given the recent catastrophes in Haiti and Chile, not to mention Peru's own history of disastrous earthquakes.
I haven't heard about any correction being broadcast, so the panic is sure to continue until someone gets to the bottom of this scary rumor.